PIP: Back-payments

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st May 2018.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 12:00 am, 21st May 2018

What progress her Department has made on processing back-payments for personal independence payment claims.

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

We understand the urgency of this matter and we remain on track to begin making the first payments in the summer. The exercise to identify claimants affected by the MH judgment will start as soon as we have made the changes to the guidance needed to implement the judgment. We are engaging with stakeholders to update the guidance and once guidance has been finalised I will further update the House.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

Four months without even an update to Members of Parliament does not sound like the matter is being treated urgently by the Government. In January, when the Government were dragged here by an urgent question to give a statement on the court case they lost, the Secretary of State assured the House that, if I wanted to contact her to arrange a meeting to discuss a particular constituency case, her door was open and she would meet me. Six weeks after I wrote to ask for such a meeting, I got a letter back from a junior Minister saying the Secretary of State was not available to meet me. Will she apologise for breaking the promise she made to me and will she apologise on behalf of my constituents, and the constituents of other Members, who still do not know what the Government are doing to sort out this mess?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

We have updated the House regularly. I published a list of frequently asked questions and placed it in the House of Commons Library on 28 March. I wrote to the hon. Gentleman on 17 April again offering a meeting and I have yet to hear a response. My door remains open and we are getting on with great urgency to begin the repayments as soon as possible.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

From a PIP application being made to when an award is paid, what is the mode, the mean and the median waiting time?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. I cannot answer with regards to the mode, the mean and the median, but I can tell him that the average waiting time at the moment is 12 weeks. We have worked very hard to bring down the waiting time so that people can get the support they need as soon as possible.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

As PIP is the entrance to mobility allowance, will the Government join the Treasury Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee in asking for a full National Audit Office inquiry into what is ostensibly a really good benefit?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

First, I would like to wish the right hon. Gentleman a very speedy recovery. I can see clearly that he has had an injury and I am sure I speak on behalf of all Members when I say that I hope he makes a very speedy recovery. We of course agree that it is really important that the NAO gets on with its work, but the Secretary of State will update the House shortly on progress.

Photo of Bill Grant Bill Grant Conservative, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

Will my hon. Friend confirm that this very important exercise regarding PIP payments is not likely to require any new face-to-face assessments?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I can absolutely assure him that there will be no need for new face-to-face appointments or assessments.

Photo of Emma Reynolds Emma Reynolds Labour, Wolverhampton North East

I have been helping identical twins who have the same genetic condition, which involves learning disabilities and associated health problems. Both were assessed for PIP at different times by different assessors. One was granted PIP and one was rejected. The case has now been resolved, but can the Minister not see that the system is totally unfit for purpose and needs overhauling?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

The very fact that the hon. Lady says the case has been resolved shows that the system is working. It is very important that we make the right decision first time. I have set in place a whole series of improvements to PIP. We have followed the advice given to us by the independent review of PIP and are working at pace to make the necessary changes.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

As a result of the incorrect guidance produced by Independent Assessment Services, formerly Atos, in relation to daily living activity 6—help with dressing—will the Minister tell the House how she proposes to estimate the number of claimants who have been incorrectly assessed for PIP, and to identify the claimants affected, provide a correct assessment and pay all the arrears due?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I thank the hon. Lady for her question—we had a meeting last week where we discussed this case. The matter was brought to the Department’s attention by the Royal National Institute of Blind People in March. We have looked into the case and are absolutely assured that this is a one-off situation, but it is very important to me that we learn the lessons of how this happened. We are meeting the RNIB on Wednesday to see what further action we can take.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

But does the Minister not accept that the wording of the correspondence that was produced by Independent Assessment Services—sent to her by a number of voluntary organisations, including the RNIB—suggests that the guidance has potentially been widely circulated among assessors, and that for contracted assessors to produce independent guidance on social security law without the Department’s knowledge suggests a serious problem with contract management?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I do not accept the premise of the hon. Lady’s questions. We are very clear that the personal independence payment assessment guide, which is published by the DWP and is on gov.uk, is the guidance that must be used by health professionals. The particular case was investigated and we have made sure that the procedures are in place to ensure that this does not happen again.